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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


Edited By Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg and Yasmin Kafai

Textile Messages focuses on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles – computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of clothing, home furnishings, or architectures that include embedded computational and electronic elements. This book introduces a collection of tools that enable novices – including educators, hobbyists, and youth designers – to create and learn with e-textiles. It then examines how these tools are reshaping technology education – and DIY practices – across the K-16 spectrum, presenting examples of the ways educators, researchers, designers, and young people are employing them to build new technology, new curricula, and new creative communities.
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1 LilyPad Arduino: E-Textiles for Everyone



At a party in a small town in rural France, a young man puts his hands on either side of a young woman’s waist and squeezes, causing the shirt the girl is wearing to emit a cascading series of electronic beeps and buzzes. The girl blushes and the two teenagers burst out laughing. The electronic shirt, which produces sounds in response to touch and can be seen in Figure 10 (bottom), was built by the young woman during a week-long workshop and is the outcome of her first experiments with electronics, programming, and fashion design. The shirt serves both as evidence of her skill and ingenuity as a budding designer/engineer and as a conversation piece for the party and she wears it playfully and proudly.

A professional costume designer in Berlin has an idea. She wants to embed lights into one of her costumes, a cloak that needs to be decorated with a representation of the zodiac. Everyone at her theater tells her it’s an unreasonable and unrealistic goal—that an electrified light-up garment will be dangerous and unwieldy to wear and difficult to design. But, after a few months of research and labor, she has constructed a sparkling, safe, and lightweight cloak decorated with lights that illuminate the patterns of the constellations. A snapshot of the performance is shown in Figure 1 (bottom). During the course of her investigations, she learns how to build electronics and meets a supportive community of engineers and hobbyists who...

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